Monday morning’s Delta County budget hearing for 2020 was devoid of public comment, however, the meeting shed light on newly proposed increases in law enforcement salaries and medical services at the jail.
Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor addressed the board early in the hearing to thank commissioners and the county administrator for their continued support.
“The sheriff’s office truly appreciates everything — the support and the recognition that you’ve given our officers whether it’s on patrol, detention or dispatch. It’s a truly tough job that they do 24-hours a day, seven days a week, all year long. I just wanted to publicly acknowledge all of you,” Taylor said.
Following his comments, it was noted by the board that the 2020 budget will reflect pay increases for sheriff’s officers and detention staff in an attempt to retain employees.
As of June 30, the county spent $718,881 of the $1,371,102 budgeted for permanent staff with the estimated total amount of salaries reaching $1,391,110 by the end of the year.
The 2020 budget proposes an increase of $289,482 for a total of $1,660,584 in salaries.
Robbie LeValley, County Administrator, said the increase in law enforcement pay was started last year as a “step-up” increase that will work out over time.
“The approach has been in phases and worked on for quite some time. The jail’s medical services did catch us off guard because the contracts are anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 for medical services and that’s an unexpected cost that we did not know but have now budgeted for. However, it is appropriate given the population and the environment,” she said.
The budget proposes a significant increase in medical services budgeted at $15,000 last year to over $300,000 for 2020. The county spent around $18,000 in 2018 and just under $24,000 last year.
LeValley said the county has been using one local doctor for the services and one nurse. Current physician, Dr. Sam Kevan, is resigning at the end of the year and only one interested applicant submitted a bid for the open position prompting a change.
“As we looked at the increasing complexity with the prescription medications, we talked to surrounding counties they have all went to a company to provide the medical services because it can be done more consistently and with better oversight of the prescriptions. We believe that is a better route to go verses depending on which physician has the time to do the job.”
LaValley said they haven’t contracted the service out yet, but the company will likely contract with local doctors. Commissioners said while medical services “aren’t cheap” but they will reduce the county’s liability at the detention center.
On the revenue side of the budget, Debbie Griffith, county assessor, said her department will have updated county property tax revenue numbers before the Thanksgiving break.
Property tax revenue for 2020 is projected at $4.7 million with preliminary “Certification of Values” from August showing the net total assessed valuation of taxable property has increased 11% over the past year according to the budget report.
When it comes to sales tax revenue, the county enjoyed an 8.65% increase when compared to the five-year rolling average. Lisa Tafoya, county treasurer, estimates sales tax collections for the General Fund and Capital Improvement Fund to just under $5.8 million with a possible 3% increase over 2019.
Total budgeted revenues for 2020 are predicted at $31,697,552.
LeValley noted that five addition county staff including land use compliance coordinator, law enforcement data input operator, information technology analyst, custodial staff for the new human services building and a public works director for road and bridge. She also mentioned the addition of staff for economic development as the county moves forward.
All Delta County employees are budgeted to receive a 2% cost of living adjustment and department heads and elected officials are scheduled to receive additional merit increases.
“We know we will have additional costs with the mandated courtroom costs as human services moves over to their building, administration moves into the human services building and we start the process of adding courtrooms in this building,” LeValley said.
Other financial challenges facing the county include on-going “state mandates without the state funding” and the increased demands for public safety funding while facing a drop in the mill levy to 13.330.
“If we were to see a downturn in the economy similar to what we experienced in 2008, this would have a significant impact on the budget,” LeValley said, “We are recommending increases in the enterprise fund for the landfill with a minimum charge up to $15 and tires increased to $4 per tire.”
According to the budget report, landfill increases are due to new regulations from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) including the mandate for manufactured liners in new cells. To offset the added expense, fees at the landfill include a $5 increase in the minimum level and a $4 per tire increase. Bulk tires will be charged at $420 per ton and refrigerators will increase by $5.
LeValley said the expenditures for all funds are projected at $36,218,678 in the proposed 2020 budget. The difference between the projected revenue and expenditures for next year is $4,521,126.
At the conclusion of the hearing, LeValley stated that the public was notified of the proposed 2020 budget on Oct. 15 and given the opportunity to ask questions and receive information. In addition, the public was given the opportunity to respond during the budget hearing on Monday morning. The adoption of the budget is scheduled for 11 a.m. Dec. 9 at the Delta County Courthouse room 236.
Although not included in the budget discussion, county officials are reviewing the policy on the North Fork Transfer Station. The small recycling site in Hotchkiss has been in the pilot stage for over 16 years according to Darnell Place-Wise, public information officer.
She said commissioners are looking at the overall cost of operating the Hotchkiss site and if the county should stop duplicating services already being provided by local recycling businesses. More information will be released at a later date Place-Wise said.